Cascades de glace

Ice Falls

In winter, the intense, freezing temperatures turn streams, waterfalls and any water seeping to the surface into ice. The ice climbers rush to get their crampons and ice axes out before the ephemeral ice structures disappear once again: an enthralling sport that nevertheless calls for some safety precaution. Indeed, various natural events can threaten the ice climber! A change to warmer or much colder temperatures can trigger a small snow slide or an avalanche, or ice and rockfalls on the structure, or, even worse, the complete collapse of the ice structure. When ice climbing, the smallest incident can have dramatic consequences. You need to be careful, vigilant and you should continuously analyse every environmental change.

The quality of the ice

The ice evolves constantly; it can be:
-Brittle (crushed ice)
-Slightly solid (white or grey ice with air pockets)
-Solid (ice with no visible air pockets)
-Very solid (hard or extremely hard)

Understanding the difficulty rating

The rating indicates the technical level (degrees from 1 to 7), as well as the level of commitment (graded from I to VII)
The higher the degree and grade, the more difficult and committed the climb.

The ice structure, the weather and snow conditions all seem favorable? Before you carry on, go through this last checklist:

-Does your group have sufficient technical ability?
-Are you all physically fit and mentally prepared?
-Do you have suitable equipment?
-Is the planned schedule realistic?
-Are you the only group on the ice fall?

Useful contacts
Mountain rescue Hautes Alpes : tel. 112

The ice observatory was founded in 2000 with support from the “Conseil Général des Hautes Alpes”, with the aim of improving the knowledge and information on ice falls. This initiative lead to the development of both the web site and the risk prediction software “Glaciolog”. This information board is dedicated to the memory of the ice climber Gérard Pailheiret, the mountain guide who spearheaded this project.